I don't understand the negative reviews that some other people have given. This book is exactly what it claims to be: the memoirs about running of a writer who runs. It's not meant to be motivational or educational, nor is it either.
Yes, it is obvious that Murakami has control issues. No, his style of running and training will not work for everyone. No, you're not going to gain some existential epiphany from this book. (Unless, of course, you happen to have unacknowledged control issues of your own.)
What it is, however, is well-written, well-narrated, and entertaining. It's a little on the short side, but by the same token it is an appropriate length. None of the stories drag on too far, nor do any of them leave you wanting for more information. The work is concise but not dry, amusing but not cute.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Murakami's other works, with the caveat that it is much more straightforward.
This is, as other reviewers have said, a highly motivational story not just for runners or even just athletes, but for anyone who has ever put years of dedication into becoming the best they can be.
The three interweaving stories are epic, told over the course of years and continents. The characters aren't presented as perfect or as superhuman, but as real people with real goals and real obstacles. In this way, the reader is not cheated by the inevitable conclusion, but can appreciate all of the work it took by everyone to get there.
Honestly, the book is as dedicated but imperfect as its subjects. The opening chapters are in need of an editor to tighten them up, as the chronology and settings jump around a bit too much to keep the reader sure of what happened when. Some of the later sections also have an almost "not quite done" feel to them, as if they wanted to tell more of a story but got trimmed to make for something more dramatic.
The narration could use a bit of tightening up, too. There are several extended pauses and background noises which are at times distracting. The narrator also switches styles of reciting numbers several times, which can be a bit confusing as the book is so number-centric.
The Good Again:
Those minor nitpicks aside, it's still a good book and worth the price and time. It might not start off interesting to a non-runner, or non-athlete, but the story is engaging enough to pull you in if you give it time.
If you're not a writer, or are a hard-core thriller reader, this book will probably seem mediocre at best. As each chapter was done by a different author, the story changes direction with each change in scene -- sometimes jarringly so. Characters, locales, and threads are lovingly introduced and coddled by one author, only to be forgotten or killed off by another author in the chain. This leads to a noticeably disjoint story that is too amused with itself to bother entertaining the reader.
Writers will get more out of this book, primarily as a lesson in how NOT to write a cohesive story. This book is audible proof that you might be an astounding writer with a mastery of language, but you have nothing if you can't bring everything together into one good narrative.
Only slightly behind that lesson is another: as a writer you have to check your ego at the door. This book reeks of testosterone-fueled power trips, and not by the characters. You might think that this would be a sore spot to the authors, but they are all but proud of this fact during the interviews presented after the book.
In the end, as a free download this audiobook is worth every penny. However, as entertainment it falls short.
First and foremost: this book has absolutely nothing to do with the economy. Nada. Zip. Zilch. This book, does, however, have everything to do with stepping back and looking at things from a different perspective.
As the summary says, this book covers a range of topics: realtors, drug dealers, school teachers, crime, etc. But the point is not so much to teach you something new about those topics, but instead to get you to look at how those topics have been presented to you by others. Then, to shift your perspective and think about them in another way.
This book isn't an education into the "what" or "who" or "where" or "how" that you generally see, but into the "why" of things. It shows that rarely can you take an explanation at face value, but instead you need to keep digging. Stopping at what seems to make sense isn't good enough -- you need to pick at it until you get to the true heart of the matter.
I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone, and have been.
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